On that awful day she was shot point blank in the head at close range, we could only hope Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords would survive. We couldn’t imagine how she could, we only hoped and prayed. She was us, all of us, and we needed her to fight for life.  She has. Beautifully.

Just look at that picture on the right. We have been waiting to see her again, and now finally can. And there she is, looking so happy, with her very happy mother. How utterly sweet.

New photos of a smiling U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords are drawing hundreds of well-wishers to her Facebook page on Sunday.

Thousands more have visited the social networking site just hours after the pictures were posted. They are the first clear snapshots of Giffords since the shooting five months ago during a constituent meet-and-greet in a Safeway parking lot in Tucson, Ariz.

The photos also represent an important step in a story of survival, strength and private perseverance for the American people.

That is absolutely true. Enough to stop and contemplate for a moment.

The two photos, one of the congresswoman and the other with her mother taken in front of the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, reveal a determined woman who still has a sparkle in her eye, friends said.

Those close to Giffords said her recovery has been nothing less than miraculous and although she has a long road ahead of her, the photos show the public proof of her progress.

And ours? We hope so. And we are a people of hope.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....